Behavioral ecology, conservation genomics, and rapid environmental change.
I am a conservation ecologist, with the goal of using theory from multiple disciplines to understand, protect, and restore biodiversity. My approach to applied conservation and restoration biology merges evolutionary ecology, animal behavior, and conservation genomics to predict the responses of wild vertebrates to environmental change. I work with birds and mammals of conservation concern primarily in the mountains and the tropics, with long-term work in Hawai`i, the Rocky Mountains, and Uganda.
One theme of my work centers on understanding intra- and interspecific variation in the life-histories of wild vertebrates, as applied to the persistence of small populations. I have a PhD in Ecology (emphasis in Conservation Ecology) from the University of California, Davis, where I worked with Dirk Van Vuren on the ecological and social factors underlying variation in female reproduction of an asocial mammal, the golden-mantled ground squirrel (Callospermophilus lateralis). I conducted my dissertation research at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado, using long-term demography, behavioral observations, and molecular tools; I have since returned to RMBL as Co-PI of the ground squirrel project, to launch new work on accelerated aging, life histories, and phenological mis-match under climatic change.
Another theme in my work centers on understanding the behavioral and ecological processes that generate, maintain, and erode genetic diversity, as applied to the conservation of threatened and endangered vertebrates. Interspecific hybridization (breeding between species) can act as both a creative and destructive force in evolution, by generating new diversity or by leading to species collapse. In Hawaii, I work on the patterns and process of contemporary hybridization in the endangered Koloa maoli (Hawaiian duck, Anas wyvilliana), using behavioral observations and reduced representation genome sequencing, with the goal of protecting this species from genetic extinction. Thanks to a recent postdoctoral fellowship at Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History, I have also been investigating ancestral hybridization of the Koloa, using 3D geometric morphometrics and ancient DNA at the Center for Conservation Genomics, and reconstructing the former ranges of both Koloa and Laysan ducks to guide restoration efforts in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Currently I am a Research Scientist in the Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, where I collaborate with several labs on the responses of vertebrate species to climate and anthropogenic change. I also work with the Eadie Lab at UC Davis, investigating maternal investment in wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and with the Ting Lab in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Oregon, where I am using whole genome sequencing to understand the recent extinction of a suspected-hybrid species of African primate, and non-invasive genomic methods to study the sociality, demography, and migration of forest and forestXsavanna hybrid elephants (Loxodonta cyclotisXafricana) in Western Uganda.